Latest research news

December 17, 2003

British Museum grant to boost ties with Africa
The prime minister, Tony Blair, last night announced a £500,000 grant to the British Museum to fund a five-year project celebrating the link between Britain and Africa. The money will enable the Bloomsbury museum to build new links with African institutions. It will pay for fellowships, exhibitions focusing on art from Africa, and a major conference.

Greenpeace campaigner on Amazon boat trip is found dead
A young British environmentalist was found dead yesterday three days after she disappeared from a Greenpeace ship in the Amazon basin. Emily Craddock, , is thought to have fallen overboard and drowned while campaigning against logging in Brazil's rainforests. She was a crew member on the Arctic Sunrise, owned by the environmental organisation, which was sailing on the Xingu, a tributary of the Amazon, 1,500 miles north of Rio de Janeiro.

Alzheimer's can be spotted decades before illness starts
People at high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in later life possess hidden signs of the senile disorder decades before the onset of the illness, scientists have found. The findings might eventually form the basis of a diagnostic test for Alzheimer's which could enable doctors to identify and treat people who would otherwise be destined to develop the progressive illness.

Morocco losing forests to cannabis
Cannabis production is expanding so fast in Morocco that it is causing soil erosion and the destruction of long-established forests, the UN reported yesterday. The illicit cash crop, which supplies most of the resin used by Europeans, is estimated to be worth £7 billion a year to trafficking networks. As much as a quarter of the agricultural land in the Rif, the mountainous region where the plant is traditionally grown, is given over to cannabis cultivation, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says.

Coral reveals ancient origins of human genes
A study of coral suggests that ancient members of the animal kingdom slithered through the Precambrian mud with a hefty cache of genes in common with humans. Surprisingly, many of these genes are not shared with creatures such as flies and worms, even though these animals evolved millions of years after coral. This calls into question some studies that use these model organisms to unravel the evolution of the human genome.

West Africa fuels illegal ivory trade
The west African states of Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast were named and shamed yesterday for allegedly fuelling the illegal ivory trade. Having largely wiped out their own elephant populations, the three were now importing and selling tonnes of ivory which had been poached in nearby countries, according to a new report from conservation watchdogs.

McQueen branches out for V&A
Alexander McQueen is usually known for his outlandish fashion shows, uncompromising designs and the odd pair of bumster trousers. But at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London yesterday he unveiled his latest creation: a Christmas tree made from 100,000 crystals. "It's inspired by when snow turns to ice," said the 33-year-old who was recently named British designer of the year.

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